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Triano: Suns’ Devin Booker wants to fight through ‘lingering’ toe injury

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) drives against New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday in the second half during an NBA basketball game, Friday, Nov 24, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
LISTEN: Jay Triano, Suns Interim Head Coach

Listed as questionable heading into the Suns’ game against the Bulls on Tuesday, guard Devin Booker has taken positive steps forward after missing a Sunday game in Minnesota to rest an inflamed right big toe, Phoenix coach Jay Triano said.

The interim coach told Doug & Wolf of 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Tuesday that Booker got shots up in the gym on Monday. The team had yet to evaluate his availability at shootaround.

Triano confirmed that Booker’s toe injury is related to an issue that kept him out of a game last October.

“It’s something that lingered with him last year,” Triano said. “We just want to make sure that it’s not something that’s concerning to us as we go through the long season. We’d rather have him through 80 games than have him fight through something right now and be behind and have to miss 20 while he recovers.

The injury has limited Booker, especially when pushing off, Triano said.

That might explain Booker’s uncharacteristic mistakes that led to a season-high six turnovers in his last outing, a Friday blowout loss to the New Orleans Pelicans where Booker only got off 13 shots and made four.

Triano said he would best describe Booker’s injury as a turf toe issue.

“I think it’s similar to that,” the coach said. “I think I mentioned that the other day and the trainers looked at me cross-eyed like I didn’t know what I’m talking about. They looked at me like, ‘basketball isn’t played on turf.'”

The challenge for the Suns is preventing Booker from creating an inbalance with his body and injuring himself as an indirect result of playing with the toe issue.

As the Suns appear to be headed for the eighth season in a row without a playoff berth, Triano added the training staff is well aware of the caution it must take in handling Booker.

“Lots of people are looking at it. Is it a shoe issue? Is it an orthotics issue?” Triano said. “He’s a kid who wants to play. He hated sitting out the other night, doesn’t want to sit out and is pushing our trainers every day to try to be on the floor.”

JUGGLING THE CENTERS

Even as the Suns have rolled out starting lineups with liberal use of centers Tyson Chandler and Greg Monroe in the past two games, it’s been hard to find playing time for the team’s third center, Alex Len.

The fifth-year pro averaging 9.0 points and 9.3 rebounds per outing hasn’t played in two of the last three games and found only 19 minutes of action Friday against New Orleans. That was due to Monroe’s foul trouble and because the Suns needed another big body in a blowout against a beefy Pelicans frontline.

It’s been difficult juggling the trio for Triano since Chandler returned from injury.

“This league is about making trades and we made a trade for Greg Monroe, and we have to see what he has and what he can do for us,” Triano said. “My challenge is balancing the three. I think over the next couple games here, we’re going to try to figure out a rotation where they all can play.”

Triano mentioned the possibility that Phoenix trades one. There’s also the potential that all three remain with the Suns for the long-haul this year.

Asked if he was showcasing Monroe or Chandler, Triano reiterated that his decision-making was about the on-the-court product.

“Not at all. My whole philosophy is try to win basketball games,” he said. “I thought our veteran bigs would be pretty good and do a good job on the glass.

“If I get word that I have to do that — that has not come down from the organization at all. They’ve told me to try to win games and I think that’s the way we should be approaching it.”

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